Summer 2000


Lyn Lifshin


ghosts clog her drains like
old hair. She is drowning in
what is over, gone. Each birth
day she remembers those no
longer left to send gifts. Her
best present this last birthday
was words from a reporter that
the dead lover who died to her
longer ago than she knew him,
told even his wife how much
he loved her, vague enough for
her to read a lifetime together
in, a ghost in itself. The woman
in love with the dead surrounds
herself with photographs of what
never was, camouflaged on
her freezer. When she reads,
"Under Antarctica Ice, Bacteria
Redefines Life on The Edge,"
she thinks of being in lightless,
fishless water in the only lakes
on earth perpetually covered
with ice, too cold to open or move.
She thinks of how they found little
oases inside the ice covers where
for 150 days each summer the ice
softens enough that tiny pockets of
liquid water form like what melted in
her before, one after another, those
who mattered left fast. Life on the
edges. Strangers in a strange place
getting by. Something thriving in
places you'd assume nothing could
survive. She thinks of the dash to
parking lots before the night shift,
of the phone calls searing any stillness.
A little light from lips melting ice on
top of what was lower, deeper, re-froze,
something still alive, to her amazement.
When she finds a scrap of paper,
handwriting that jolts, a face in
the drawer, she's distracted, she's
lost in loss. She's so cold but she
wants you on hold where she can
thaw a little like chicken or coffee
beans she'll grind later. She wants
to make you love the cold, the quiet,
wants to listen with ear plugs so she
can make up words she can't hear.

Lyn Lifshin's new book BEFORE IT'S LIGHT (Black Sparrow) won a Paterson Prize Award. The film about her LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF GLASS is available from Women Make Movies in NYC and a reading of her poems is still available from NEW LETTERS ON AIR> Her website is


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